Thursday, May 10, 2007

More on LNG Risk

GAO provides a bit more information on the risk associated with liquified natural gas (LNG) in this follow-up testimony, which was provided in the wake of its earlier report on LNG. (My post is here.)

Everyone agrees that the "nightmare scenario" of LNG shipping is a tanker explosion. While such an explosion is possible, especially when vapors are trapped in a confined space, it seems unlikely that this could result from an intentional attack:

For confined spaces, such as under a dock or between the hulls of a ship, [a group of 19 experts] agreed that it is possible, under controlled experimental conditions, to induce explosions of LNG vapors; however, a detonation—the more serious type of vapor cloud explosion—of confined LNG vapors is unlikely following an LNG spill caused by a terrorist attack. For unconfined spaces, experts were split on whether it is possible to induce such explosions under controlled experimental conditions; however, even experts who thought such explosions were possible agreed that vapor cloud explosions in unconfined spaces are unlikely to occur following an LNG spill caused by a terrorist attack.
If experts are skeptical of the likelihood of a detonation, it's clear that a terrorist group certainly couldn't engineer an attack that would predictably result in such a detonation. However, I was interested in this caveat:
One expert noted that although the consequences of cascading failure could be serious, because the extreme cold of spilled LNG and the high heat of an LNG fire could damage the tanker, there are virtually no data looking at how a tanker would be affected by these temperatures.
In summary, there is a risk involved with LNG tanker shipments, but it's reasonable to conclude - for now anyway - that a terrorist group would seek a more reliable mode of attack.

Cross-posted in IPS Blogs at the Institute for Preventive Strategies.

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